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Ask the pharmacist: How to avoid medication misfortune during a natural disaster

(BPT) - Whether it’s plywood, bottled water or generators, Americans gather the necessary supplies and seek the appropriate shelter if confronted by the wrath of Mother Nature. Regardless of the disaster – hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires – lives can be turned upside-down in an instant. Some of the most commonly overlooked items, as people stock up for emergencies, are prescription medications. In some cases, not having access to necessary medication can itself be a life-threatening situation.

“People with health conditions such as diabetes, asthma or heart problems need to be particularly vigilant about making sure they have access to their medications when preparing for the aftermath of a natural disaster,” says Paul Reyes, Express Scripts pharmacist and host of the Ask the Pharmacist radio series. “It’s very important that you have your medications with you if you have to leave your home or at least have the appropriate information so that you can quickly get a supply of medication if necessary. There is plenty of stress and worry in an emergency situation and you want to avoid having your drug treatments add to your problems.”

Reyes provides the following tips to help avoid medication mistakes when facing a weather-related emergency.

* Pack and prepare your pills: Keep an updated list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications (including the name of the drug, the dosage and the condition being treated) with you in a waterproof container or bag. Include phone numbers for all of your doctors and pharmacies in case you or an emergency worker needs to contact them. If you are concerned about potential evacuations, consider storing your medications in one spot for quicker access.

* Carry your prescription card: It’s important to always carry your prescription drug membership card. Your pharmacy benefit provider or health plan can help you obtain an emergency supply of any lost or damaged medication.

* Develop a plan: Consider discussing your medication disaster plan with your doctor, especially if the medication you take has special handling instructions or requires electronic equipment (such as a nebulizer) or refrigeration. Make sure you have at least three days’ worth of medication and supplies with you (more if local authorities advise). Ordering a 90-day supply of medication through your plan’s mail-order pharmacy is a simple way to ensure a full stock.

If you do experience an emergency situation, it’s important to consider the following:

* Medication safety: Medications that are exposed to moisture, excessive heat or simply left at room temperature when they should be refrigerated may become contaminated. Inspect medications to see if the look or smell of it has changed. Contact a local pharmacist or health care provider to help determine if a drug is safe to use.

* Skipping doses: If you haven’t been able to take your medication, contact a pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible, even if you’re not experiencing any negative health effects. If you’ve skipped doses of your medication, never take additional doses to make up for those you’ve missed before talking to a health care practitioner.

For more resources and information, visit Express Scripts’ Healthcare Insights blog at lab.express-scripts.com.

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